Cauvery is an east-flowing river in southern India. It originates in the Western Ghats and flows southeast for about 800 km, touching Eastern Ghats and into the Coromandel Coast by Bay of Bengal.

On its journey beginning in the misty hills of Coorg in Karnataka, it traverses through the heartland of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. It touches towering temples, palaces and pilgrimage places, remnants of Dutch colonies and French footprints and British structures, and forms a part of livelihoods of people. On it course there are series of dams: Amaravathi Dam, Tirpur district; Banasura Sagar Dam, Wayanad district – the largest earth dam in India, which impounds Karamanathodu tributary of the Kabini;  Krishna Raja Sagar Dam, Mandya district; Upper Anaicut, Thanjavur district; Mettur Dam, Salem district;  Kallanai Dam, Tiruchirapalli and Thanjavur districts. On the last leg of its journey it fans out as a delta by the Coromandel Coast in Tamil Nadu before flowing into Bay of Bengal.

River Cauvery is the third largest river in South India after Godavari and Krishna, and the largest river in Tamil Nadu. The river bisects the state into two distinct regions, North and South, within Tamil Nadu.

The tributaries of Cauvery are: Amaravathi, Arisil, Arkavathi, Bhavani, Harangi, Hemavati, Honnuhole, Lakshmana Tirtha, Lokapavani, Kabini, Kollidam, Kudamurutti, Moyar, Noyyal or Noyil, Pambar in Kerala, Shimsha, Vennaaru, and Thirumanimutharu.


Kaveri’s anglicized name is Cauvery.


River Cauvery is a sacred river to the riparian states. She is worshipped as Goddess Kaveramma in Coorg by the Kodavas – adi-devata, the primeval mother. Cauvery is one of the seven holy rivers of India. It is known as ‘Daksina Ganga’ (River Ganges of the South). It is revered for its cultural or religious sanctity, celebrated for its beauty in scenery. The Cauvery basin is considered as the holy ground.


River Cauvery’s source is at Talakaveri (Tala Cauvery) in the Brahmagiri range of the Western Ghats, 1341m above msl in Kodagau (Coorg) district of Malnad region in Karnataka. According to a report ‘the source at Tala Cauvery has always seemed slightly geographically suspicious – when the range in which its rises — Brahmagiri — is also applied to the source of the Godaveri. The latter source at Trimbakeshwar is pure priestly fraud for the river does indeed rise in the Brahmagiri hills above. The Cauvery has some suspicious priestly activity at the annual birth ceremony of the river and this is why strict geographical attribution of the source may not coincide with the wiles of the self-appointed custodians’.

It flows southeast some 800 kilometres in a south-easterly direction across the Deccan Plateau, and descending the Eastern Ghats in a series of waterfalls. It courses through gorges and rocks and ravines of the Deccan Plateau, and forms waterfalls. One waterfall is Shivasamudram, the second biggest waterfalls in India. Shivanasamudra Falls is located in border of Mandya and Chamarajanagar districts in Karnataka. Shivasamudram Falls fans out giving an aesthetic sight of any a river in Indian. River Cauvery forms an island at Shivanasamudra (Gagana Chukki and Bara Chukki) named Srirangapatana near Mysuru and another island at Srirangam in Tamil Nadu.

Hogenakal Falls is another waterfall in the border between the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu but in the Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu. It is nicknamed as the ‘Niagara of India’ as it forms a cloud of mist and spray and scenic cataracts resembling to the Niagara Falls. Tourists visit the site among other reasons for medicinal baths.


The catchment area of River Cauvery is spread over the Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka, Pudicherry (Pondicherry) and Tamil Nadu. The river basin’s size is slightly more than the land size of the Czech Republic (78,666 square kilometres or 30,450 square miles, and Kaveri is 81,155 square kilometres or 31,334 sq mi). The river is the source for an extensive irrigation system, and for hydroelectric power in post-independent India. It had been the lifeblood of the ancient and medieval kingdoms, down to modern and post-modern times and in the 21st century India.

The hydroelectric power station near Shivasamudram Waterfalls, one of the first power stations in Asia set up in 1902, was supervised by Sheshadri Iyer the Diwan of the Kingdom of Mysore.

River Cauvery is a source of conflict over the sharing of waters between the two states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Two agreements were signed between the Madras Presidency under British rule and Kingdom of Mysore, in 1892 and 1924: ‘The 802 kilometres (498 mi) Kaveri river has 44,000 km2 basin area in Tamil Nadu and 32,000 km2 basin area in Karnataka. The inflow from Karnataka is 425 TMCft whereas that from Tamil Nadu is 252 TMCft.’  

The Government of India, on the direction of the Supreme Court, constituted a Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) on 22 June 2018 to address the dispute over sharing of river water among Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry in addition to Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA).

CWMA is an umbrella body that looks into the disputes arising among the riparian states. The CWRC will monitor water management on a day-to-day basis, including the water level and inflow and outflow of reservoirs in all the basin states.

Government of India informs about Cauvery Water Management Scheme, 2018 on its website: “Central Government, in exercise of the powers conferred by section 4 of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 (33 of 1956) had constituted the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal vide notification number S.O. 437(E), dated the 2nd June, 1990 to adjudicate upon the water dispute regarding the Inter-State river Cauvery and the river valley thereof among the States of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Union territory of Puducherry.”

Solution for the riparian conflict between the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka: Water experts say to tide over the water scarcity in the South Indian rivers and to prevent the floods that affect the plains of North India, the solution is to link the Ganga with the Cauvery. According to experts, this would increase the food grain production as a result of water availability for irrigation, floods and droughts would be mitigated in addition to reducing the regional imbalances due to the availability of water. A master plan was submitted to the GoI in 1977.

In 21st century India, River Cauvery has immense cultural, agricultural and religious significance, and a natural spectacle to behold.


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